Tuesday, December 7, 2010

First Baptist Church of Dallas, The Grinch Alert, Merry Xmas, and why Robert Jeffress needs a history lesson

The First Baptist Church of Dallas has started a "Grinch Alert" website.  Here's the Dallas Morning News:

First Baptist Church Dallas is keeping a list this season, and probably lots of people will be checking it twice, if not more.
The Rev. Robert Jeffress, the church’s pastor, today announced the launch of www.GrinchAlert.com , a First Baptist Web site where people can post the names of “naughty” businesses that use generic holiday language or nothing at all, rather than acknowledging Christmas through store displays, advertising or community relations.

“Too many businesses have bowed down to political correctness,” Jeffress said. “I thought this would be a fun way to call out businesses that are refusing to celebrate Christmas.”

The website features a “naughty” list but also a “nice” list for recognition of businesses that do acknowledge Christmas.

....“We’re letting readers and listeners make their own determination about who ought to be on the naughty or nice list,” Jeffress said. “This is just a forum to let people express their views. In a pluralistic society everybody gets to make their decision.”
Here's some more wholesome Baptist Jihadism from the Grinch Alert website.  If this doesn't remind you of Saturday Night Live's "church lady", you weren't paying much attention in the 90's:

Have you encountered a “Grinch” this Christmas season? Share your experiences here at GrinchAlert.com! Here, you can nominate businesses and organizations that shut-out expressions of Christmas in their interactions with the public via marketing, advertising and public relations. When companies use misplaced political correctness to halt the celebration of Christmas, they belong on the “Naughty List.”

We also want to know which companies are celebrating Christmas with excitement and meaning–especially those who keep Christ in Christmas where He belongs! Those companies and organizations will be placed on our “Nice List.” Help us preserve Christ this Christmas.

Of all the theologically unaware, culture-bound, divisive, and downright sanctimonious displays of historical ignorance I've ever seen, this is one of the worst.  It's almost enough to make me go into a cussing fit, but I intend for this post to be read from pulpits all across America next Sunday.
The following is an excerpt (actually, an entire chapter) from "Stories Behind The Great Traditions Of Christmas", by Ace Collins. 
On Xmas

Over the past sixty years or so, Christians have lamented the commercialization of Christmas.  Many have pointed to magazines, newspapers, and store advertisements that seem to pull Jesus out of the holidays by substituting an X in place of the name of Christ in the word Christmas.  While it is usually true that those who use Xmas these days are doing so to save space and shorten the word, Xmas is hardly a new concept - or an irreverent one.  Its use actually dates back to the earliest days of the Christian church. 

Many of the Gentiles who became the initial followers of Christ were Greek.  The Greek for Christ's name is Xristos (pronounced Christos).  While it is well known that a fish was often used as a symbol to denote churches and Christian gathering places during the ancient days of the church, many Greeks also used the letter X (pronounced chi) as their symbol of faith.  This X marked the places where they worshiped.  Therefore, the use of the letter X for Christ is one of the oldest traditions in the Christian faith - one of the first concrete symbols that signified the gospel message for people of all races and backgrounds.  Knowing that Greeks were following the teachings of a Jewish man was almost mind-boggling to scores of pagans during this time.  It also spoke volumes about the nature of Christianity - that all were welcome to become part of the family of God. 

The apostle Paul no doubt knew what the symbol X meant.  He had led a large number of his Greek brothers and sisters to Christ.  A majority of those who called the Savior Xristos financially supported Paul's missionary work and created an environment for the rapid growth of Christianity in Europe.  Many of these Greeks were so enthused about their faith that they helped ignite a fire that rapidly spread the word to the far corners of the known world.  Yet they paid a price as well. 

Countless Greek Christians were persecuted for their faith.  They were stoned, hanged, burned, and put to death in grotesque displays in Rome's Colosseum.  When a Christian was martyred, other Christians often traced an X to mark the spot where a true believer had  given his or her life in faithfulness to Christ.  Hence, in the initial days of Christianity, X was also the ultimate symbol of devotion and sacrifice. 

During the early days of the church, Xmas did not exist.  This was not because church leaders felt that using such a term would be a sign of disrespect.  Since carving letters into the stones of homes and churches was not an easy chore, having an X stand for the meeting place of Christians was fine with the clergy.  The reason that Xmas was not employed during the holiday season was that there was no holiday season.  It would be almost three and a half centuries before the church designated a date to celebrate Christ's birth, and even then Christmas was not a widely recognized holiday. 

Blogger note: And when the church finally decided on a date, they plopped it onto an earlier, pagan festival.  Winter Solstice.  Go here for details.  And when you get back, you'll always remember that the original, true December holiday greeting is "Happy Winter Solstice !!"   And if you say anything else.....you're a Grinch who bows down to the forces of Political Correctness.
Sorry for the distraction. 
Back to the Ace Collins chapter on the Christian origins of "Xmas":

Many of the early Christians had a basic education and could read.  But as time passed and the missionary movement spread the gospel across Europe, converts to the faith were largely unschooled. 

Kinda like whoever came up with this Grinch website.....

These men and women would not have recognized their own names on a document, much less the name of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, symbols became an important part of faith during the Dark Ages.  Some members of the clergy taught new converts that X was a symbol for Christ.  By writing the X, a man, woman, or child could easily spell out in one simple symbol what defined his or her faith. 

During the 16th century, as more and more European clergymen began to document the history of Christianity and to record the day-to-day business of the church, the use of an X for Christ was again widely employed.  It was during this time that the word "Xmas" first began to appear in the writings of Catholic clerics and monks.  Christ's name was probably abbreviated in this manner for three reasons.  The first was that almost all religious documents of the time were handwritten in a very ornate style.  A large X could be drawn in a much more artistic fashion than could the spelled-out name of Christ.  Thus, by writing Xmas with dramatic flair, the day of Christ's birth stood out. 

The second reason probably was that ink and paper were not as easy to come by as today.  Hence, shortening any word would save not only time but also precious resources. 

Ultimately, however, the primary reason many of the Christian writers of the time used Xmas was no doubt because of their knowledge of the Greek language and the early history of the church.  In the minds of these men, Xmas was a word of power that contained great devotional value.  It was a term that honored both the early Christian followers, many of whom became martyrs, and the Savior they had chosen to lead them.  The clerics wanted to make sure that believers remember the fallen heroes of the faith each Christmas. 

As time went on, and reaching a more educated public with a deeper understanding of what faith meant became more important, Xmas was again used by the church.  This time the term was employed to point out that while Christ's birth was necessary and was a cause for great celebration, it was his death and resurrection that gave real meaning to the Christian faith.  Therefore, the X in Xmas reminded believers not only of Christ's birth, but also of the most important Christian symbol, the cross. 

When Christmas finally evolved into a holiday with commercial significance in the mid-1800's....

(Thank you, Charles Dickens)

....retailers began to note the use of Xmas by certain small Christian groups.  In order to save print space and make their flyers and advertisements easier to read, stores picked up on this term based on a very old symbol.  It also made sense because in those days many Americans could not read.  It was far easier for them to grasp than a longer word like Christmas. 

Today, in a culture where few know Greek and almost everyone has a working knowledge of English, the need for employing the symbols of faith is not widely needed.  Hence, most Christians don't know that Xmas was first used by the church and not invented as a shortcut used by merchants during the commercialization of the holiday season.  The fact that the knowledge of the real meaning of X has slipped away from most Christian teachings is a great loss.  The early Greek believers did not know the joy of worshiping freely.  they did not celebrate Christ's birth publicly.  They often paid for their faith with their lives.  Yet they helped spread the gospel to the far corners of their world.  To them, living under the sign of X - the sign of Christ - was the ultimate statement of faith.  If they could visit today's world and see the term Xmas, they would immediately understand its correlation with the Son of God.  Thus, to them, Xmas would be one of the most wonderful and powerful traditions of the modern Christmas. 

And they would also look at that shameful Grinch Alert website, and ask First Baptist Dallas to take it down. 


TarrantLibertyGuy said...

First, read this inane idiocy from one of the posters identifying some company for the 'nice list' on the FBC Dallas Grinch site:

"We took a ride on the North Pole Express train ride in Grapevine and was very surprized that Santa Claus was on it reading "The Legend of the Candy Cane" to the children before the ride began. It was awesome to see him spreading the real meaning of Christmas to the children."

Bring it up to the nose and cup your hand around your nostrils and breathe it in. Ahh. The bouquet! Now, slurp it into your mouth using a lot of air and roll it around you tongue? Taste the irony tannins? Doesn't it make you 'pucker' a bit? I thought so. That is the 1961 Chateau Latour of irony.

With that said, I prefer their attempt to change store's policies by boycotts and buycotts vs. some sort of public policy.

I'm waiting on the 'red and green laws' to be enacted mandating the words 'Merry Christmas' be used in all advertisements for every product. All year long.

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

Also a friend a mine, a super cool Christian chick, went to Egypt and noticed several folks had a Coptic Cross (really, an "X") tattoo on the inside of their wrists. She asked about it and they said that it's sometimes a little hostile in Egypt for non-Muslims and that's a way they identify each other (it's really small).

It could be traced back to the earliest days of the Church and marked, literally, their visits to certain holy lands.

She was so taken with their love and devotion - she came back from that visit to the Nile with an "X" on her wrist.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Have you ever wondered why the Coptics wanted to take Christ out of Christmas?

Nick Rowe said...

Actually, the fish is more than just a symbol of Christianity. It is an acronym or acrostic.

The Greek word for fish is ΙΧΘΥΣ (Ichthys).

The letters in the word stand for "Jesus Christ God's son, Savior."

As for Merry Christmas:

To Hell with people who are offended when they hear it, even if they're not Christian,


To Hell with people who think other people have to say it.

The date of Christmas was chosen to supplant a pagan festival. I suppose it's sauce for the goose for other "holidays" to attempt to supplant Christmas.

I won't celebrate or be any part of Angry, Racist, Marxist, Torturer Day.

Cedric Katesby said...

John Stewart has some very funny commentary on the subject.

It's also tempting to wonder how many "Christians" know anything at all about early religious history.
Merry Mithrasday, everybody!

Fester said...

I am a grinch I guess, because I don't believe in Christ as the son of god, I don't often use the word Christmas and when I do, it means nothing to me. It doesn't mean I don't enjoy having a day to get presents and eat lots of fatty treats. However a holiday around winter solstice preceded Christ so I feel no guilt celebrating and not being Christian.

Tim Lebsack said...

Congrats Baptists. Nothing like a well thought out evangelism campaign to help steer flock behavior.

Chasity Mother Of Two Girls said...

Congratulations! You have started the division of our country when we should all united for the spirit of the season.

When I hear Happy Holidays. I hear all the religions this time of year united in one phrase. I hear Happy Hanukkah Happy Kwanzaa,Happy Winter Solstice and New Years. This is a phrase that is wishing a person well. It is not made to offend.

Seriously, if you need the phrase Merry Christmas to make your Christmas then I think you seriously need to re-think your faith! It does not hurt you to hear Happy Holidays! Nothing about that phrase is Anti- Christian.

I thought Christians were good people that gave to the poor, united communities. All this list does is divide and hurt businesses. We do not need this when the country has been hurting enough!

Is this a Christian thing to do? I think not! Makes you sound like my a bunch of two year old throwing a tantrum because not everyone sees things the way you do. Get over it there are more Holidays this time of year. They are not anymore important or any less important than yours. Not everyone is going to think like you do.

So I say let's untied this year and spread good cheer!!! Let's get rid of this list that divides and hurts people!

Happy Holidays! From my family to yours!

Chasity Channell